Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 10

It’s a mostly forgettable season 10 for our favorite turn-of-the-twentieth-century Toronto detective. Here’s our take on this season’s episodes:

  1. “Great Balls of Fire, Part 1” – 5
  2. “Great Balls of Fire, Part 2” – 6
  3. “A Study in Pink” – 6.5
  4. “Concocting a Killer” – 6
  5. “Jagged Little Pill” – 6.5
  6. “Bend it Like Brackenreid” – 6
  7. “Painted Ladies” – 4
  8. “Weekend at Murdoch’s” – 8
  9. “Excitable Chap” – 4
  10. “The Devil Inside” – 0
  11. “A Murdog Mystery” – 6
  12. “The Missing” – 6.5
  13. “Mr. Murdoch’s Neighborhood” – 5.5
  14. “From Murdoch to Eternity” – 3
  15. “Hades Hath No Fury” – 4
  16. “Master Lovecraft” – 3
  17. “Hot Wheels of Thunder” – 6
  18. “Hell to Pay” – 0

At an average rating of only 4.8, this season is the lowest of the series, dragged down by a number of episodes that are competent but uninspiring, and a few that we found entirely unwatchable, with little at the upper end to balance them out.

This season rings in with a pair of 0s in “The Devil Inside,” one more unnecessary slog with serial-killer Murdoch-fan James Gillies, who we thought we were done with for good back in season 7, and “Hell to Pay,” an unimaginative “conspiracy to frame the detective” cliffhanger with the added detriment of killing off one familiar female character and leaving another one in peril. These sorts of episodes are clearly an attempt by the writers to “add drama” and “make it personal” in the most tired and cliched of ways.

Some of the season’s other episodes, though not disastrous, didn’t work very well for us. The period pieces “Excitable Chap,” (4) a Murdoch version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and “Master Lovercraft,” (3) about a young H. P. Lovecraft stumbling across a dead body on a visit to Toronto, both have some clever moments but are hampered by poor writing and lackluster acting. The new recurring character Detective Watts is charmingly quirky, but feels more like one writer’s pet project than an organic part of the Murdoch universe.

Besides these weaknesses, though, there are good points to the season. The season-opening two-parter, “Great Balls of Fire” parts 1 (5) and 2 (6), deals with the 1904 Great Fire of Toronto in a way that is both respectful of the historical tragedy and well-integrated into the series’ story and the lives of its characters. We enjoyed the return of Murdoch’s old friend and private detective Freddie Pink in “A Study in Pink” (6.5). Miss James gets to run an investigation of her own in “Jagged Little Pill” (6.5). And there is some delightful nonsense in “A Murdog Mystery” (6), an episode that kicks off with a murdered show dog, and “Hot Wheels of Thunder” (6), which brings roller derby shenanigans to the Murdoch world.

The one standout episode of the season, though, is “Weekend at Murdoch’s” (8), a gleefully silly romp using the Weekend at Bernie’s gimmick in which Murdoch goes to increasingly absurd lengths to try to lure out a killer using the corpse of our old favorite upper-class twit Roger Newsome (of the Mimico Newsomes). While this episode spells the end for Roger, we are happily left with his equally preposterous sister, Ruth, who becomes a new returning character.

Season 10 isn’t altogether bad, but it is a low point in the series. Here’s hoping for an upswing in season 11.

Image: The late Roger Newsome, from “Weekend at Murdoch’s” via IMDb

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Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 9

Here’s our ratings for season 9 of the Canadian early-twentieth-century detective series Murdoch Mysteries:

  1. “Nolo Contendere” – 6.5
  2. “Marked Twain” – 4
  3. “Double Life” – 4
  4. “Barenaked Ladies” – 5
  5. “24 Hours ’til Doomsday” – 8.5
  6. “The Local Option” – 6
  7. “Summer of ’75” – 4
  8. “Pipe Dreamzzz” – 6
  9. “Raised on Robbery” – 8
  10. “The Big Chill” – 6
  11. “A Case of the Yips” – 4
  12. “Unlucky in Love” – 6.5
  13. “Colour Blinded” – 8
  14. “Wild Child” – 4
  15. “House of Industry” – 4.5
  16. “Bl**dy H*ll” – 7.5
  17. “From Buffalo with Love” – 4
  18. “Cometh the Archer” – 0

The average rating for this season is 5.4, which puts this season right about the middle with some seasons averaging higher and some lower.

There’s some cast shakeups and character development under way. Dr. Grace departs the series and her place as Dr. Ogden’s science sister is taken by Miss James, the first main character of color. We miss Dr. Grace, who was a favorite, but it’s nice to see the series continue to improve on acknowledging the diversity of turn-of-the-century Toronto. Constable Crabtree and Inspector Brackenried both get some good character development this season, as Crabtree’s romantic adventures drag him into some odd and dangerous places (“Nolo Contendere,” “From Buffalo with Love”) and Brackenried gets mixed up in a political scandal (“Bl**dy H*ll”).

Most of this season’s episodes rate in the 4-6 range, which is okay but not great. The season average is brought up, though, by a handful of better episodes, while only one really bad one drags it down. The bottom of the barrel comes at the end of the season with “Cometh the Archer,” a peculiar and tedious episode bringing back master criminal Eva Green and turning her into an unstable Murdoch fangirl. It’s a strange episode which seems to exist for little reason other than showing Dr. Ogden on a leather-clad, bow-wielding rampage of revenge—which is not a bad goal in itself, but it deserves a better treatment than this episode gives it.

Our highest-rated episode of the season, at 8.5, is “24 Hours ’til Doomsday,” a rollicking adventure with a steampunk edge about an ambitious experiment in rocketry. This episode brings back favorite returning characters James Pendrick and Terrence Myers, and ends with Myers taking an unexpected ride into the upper atmosphere. Two more episodes come in at 8, “Raised on Robbery,” a bank heist story which makes for a nice change of pace from the usual murders, and “Colour Blinded,” which gives Miss James some development and explores some of the complexities of race relations in early twentieth-century Canada.

Feel free to share your own favorites from season 9!

Image: Pendrick showing Murdoch his wingsuit design, from “24 Hours ’til Doomsday,” Murdoch Mysteries via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Random Thoughts on Avengers: Endgame

It took us a while to get to see Avengers: Endgame a second time, but here we finally are. As usual, thoughts in no particular order. Spoiler warnings in effect.

 

Eppu’s random thoughts

What worked:

  • It was partly what I expected, but only partly. Mostly it was really not at all what I thought it would be. That’s great.
  • So many smaller Marvel characters we’ve glimpsed over the years got brief moments, if not a line or two.
  • A Stan Lee cameo for one more (last?) time.
  • The pacing was quite good; the movie did not feel three hours long. While Avengers: Infinity War felt stuffed to the gills, parts of A:E felt almost meditative. The slow lead down to the final fight (because of course there has to be a big final fight) was especially welcome. I might have wanted to see the post-snap world (not just USA) get more development, but what can you do—the movie is already so long.
  • Jeremy Renner got some very emotional stuff to perform, and he was especially great. Kudos.
  • So much of the dialogue is so funny, especially Ant-Man’s!
  • Captain America’s second elevator scene at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters with H.Y.D.R.A. agents. Thih!
  • At the big final fight, it was great to see several characters—pun fully intended—running the gauntlet with the gauntlet. Teamwork!
  • The women of Marvel got to assemble, too (albeit in one token moment).
  • It was interesting that they kept Thor’s beer belly all the way to the end and specifically didn’t clean him up with Asgardian magic or whatever.

What I absolutely LOVED:

  • How BEAUTIFUL everything looked. I know new special effects have been developed along these 22 movies, and Marvel’s really got them down now. Also, the cinematographer Trent Opaloch did an awesome job again, and the special effects teams seemed to have had more time to work (compared to A:IW).
  • Tony Stark with his daughter—LOVED him in those scenes.
  • Captain America vs. Captain America. *snicker*
  • Professor Hulk’s tete-a-tete with the Ancient One remained verbal after the initial yoinking-out-of-physical-body.
  • Nat and Clint were clearly shown to be good friends, not romantic partners. Same for Nat and Cap.
  • Director Carter. 🙂
  • So many of the men cried at many different points in the story. Because men are not monsters.
  • When Clint came back alone from Vormir, there was literally no dialogue while the rest were trying to come to grips with Nat’s death. Amazing scene, amazing acting!
  • When Professor Hulk first attempted to undo the snap and the rest were wondering whether it worked, Scott Lang went to the window and looked at the birds, absolutely delighted. Great stuff.
  • All of the snap-ashed supers and super groups showing up to stand by Captain America’s side for the final fight. YIBAMBE!
  • Captain America wielding Mjölnir! Aaaaah! I knew he could!
  • Avengers: assemble!
  • Okoye and Shuri! And Pepper Potts in an Iron Suit!
  • Yes, Peter Parker, genuine hugs are really nice.
  • Sam as the new Captain America.
  • That the best, most touching moments weren’t about fisticuffs but people and the relationships between people. Supers are still people, at least in these stories, as are the rest of us.

What I thought wasn’t optimal:

  • The beginning of the movie could have included Captain Marvel’s arrival to the compound.
  • Considering how little time Nebula had in the previous movies, it was odd how much time she had in A:E.
  • As great as it was to see side characters pop up here and there, I miss Maria Hill; she was barely there. (Like Nick Fury, only at Tony’s funeral.) We didn’t see Luis from Ant-Man, either.
  • Hawkeye’s vigilante storyline felt like it was copypasted straight from comics. (I’ve no idea; haven’t read any of those.) As interesting as that might have been, it felt disconnected from everything else tonally and emotionally. I get that that the intent was to have Nat poetically give Clint a chance just like he gave her one, but the integration of the story should’ve been handled better.
  • For such an ensemble movie, it was oddly low in actual team stuff. The main focus and space were on Tony Stark, Captain America, and Thor. Too many moments on those three for an Avengers story, especially when they picked the dudes who already have their own franchises.
  • Speaking of Thor: satisfying hammer-axe action, disappointingly little thunder and lightning.
  • The time-travel plot gimmick felt exactly like that, a gimmick instead of A Rational Plot. Besides, how was Steve able to marry Peggy if doodling with time wasn’t supposed to work that way?
  • What’s this rubbish about barely having Black Panther there?
  • At Stark’s funeral, there was one young dude I didn’t recognize. Apparently he was the young kid from Iron Man 3. O-kay; he wasn’t well integrated at all.
  • Captain Marvel was MASSIVELY underused. What’s the point of having a star player and building up her impact in stingers and trailers if you’re going to bench her for most of the film? Absurd. (I did read a comment online saying that the basic edit of A:E was locked down before Captain Marvel even finished filming. If so, it still doesn’t justify the bad balancing act in the stingers and trailers.)
  • The same also applies to Thor, Doctor Strange, and Scarlet Witch. Doctor Strange had nothing plot-related to do in this film? Really?! You could perhaps argue that acquiring the beer belly might’ve affected Thor’s ability to control lightning; then again, he wasn’t affectected at all by losing an eye in Thor: Ragnarok, so not really. And what on earth was stopping Wanda from either mind controlling Thanos or snapping a bunch of capillaries in his brain!? Marvel really must get its act together and start actually using powerful characters, including the women, as long as they keep insisting on incorporating them into the MCU.
  • Peter Quill got what was coming to him—getting kneed into his privates—for touching someone out of the blue like that, but it didn’t feel satisfactory at all. He needs to have some sense written into him, but this wasn’t the way and I doubt he learned anything.
  • At the very end, Steve’s Old Man Beige(TM) jacket gave me the creeps. Where is it writ that Upon Attaining a Venerable Age, Men Must Wear Beige?!?

What I hated:

  • Thor’s PTSD was a plausible story arc, but done clumsily—too much focus (literally!) was placed on his beer belly, which was played for laughs.
  • Tony Stark may be great with his daughter, but otherwise he’s sill a jerk: asking Pepper a question, then interrupting her in the next breath; all of his needs and wants overriding hers. So, basically, the only time Tony thinks a woman is worthy of respectful treatment is when she’s literally sprung from his own DNA? FFS.
  • If Nebula knew, for her not to have told the Avengers what getting the soulstone requires was nigh on sadistic and not in line with the Nebula the movie spent its beginning establishing. If she merely suspected, it still isn’t in line with the new Nebula. At least she did mention Gamora died on Vormir.
  • You can argue back and forth whether it should’ve been Nat or Clint who got to sacrifice themselves. Since they went the way they did, the fact remains that the writers have now killed two characters for the soulstone, and both are women. It was tiresome already in A:IW (as we see so many dead women in American entertainment which MCU stories are part of—nothing is created in a vacuum). Now they’ve stepped it up (remember how both broken bodies were on display on screen?). The most spot-on comment on this I’ve seen: “’Vormir’ means ‘refrigerator’, right?” Or, in a longer take: “I don’t think anyone involved in making Infinity War understood how viscerally disturbing Gamora’s death was, especially for women in the audience—to be murdered by your abuser in what he claims to be proof of his love, and to have the universe itself validate that proof by giving him what he wants in exchange.” Disgusting.
  • Where was Natasha’s funeral? Why were the men allowed to wallow after losing people, but Pepper got, what, 15 seconds? This stinks of fridging: women die for men to Have Feels.
  • When the women of Marvel got to assemble (albeit in a way that felt forced), they were pretty much stopped there; not even 60 seconds. A:IW had a better all-women fight scene.

What questions I was left with:

  • Um, wasn’t the whole point with Laura and their kids that Clint explicitly wanted to keep ’em off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar? (It was mentioned in Avengers: Age of Ultron.) We see him wearing an ankle monitor, which means they’re exposed to at least one agency, possibly many. And he was fine with it??
  • What about phase 4??? Seems like whichever way you look, there’s a lot (a lot!) to explain after A:E, and that doesn’t sound like an easy task.

 

Erik’s random thoughts

My random thoughts come in two varieties: gripes and cheers.

The gripes:

  • This is a movie trying to do too much. It has too many characters to serve, too many plots to ravel up, too many nostalgia beats to hit, too much narrative debt to pay off. As with Infinity War before it, it is a tribute to the writers and directors that this movie works at all, but it still feels like twenty pounds of story in a ten-pound bag.
  • Given that the movie is overstuffed, it is no surprise that most of my problems with it concern the things it doesn’t have time for. It is perhaps unfair to complain that a movie with several dozen heroes doesn’t spend enough time with some of them, but there a few cases that feel particularly galling. Chief among those is Captain Marvel. After a movie and two stingers building up her potential as a game-changing hero, she barely appears in Endgame. Her most significant contribution to the plot is delivering Tony Stark back to Earth, after which she disappears for most of the rest of the runtime. The movie practically spends more time making excuses for Carol Danvers’s absence than it does explaining the central time heist.
  • The movie’s handling of women in general is pretty awful. They mostly appear as emotional supports to men or in roles so small as to be effectively meaningless. When the female heroes assemble in the midst of the final battle, all they really get to do is pose together before the general melee resumes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a problem with is female characters for the whole decade, yet the fact that the filmmakers evidently thought a quick photo-op in a three-hour movie was good enough is somehow even more enraging than the usual neglect.
  • In a similar vein, it is not nothing that this movie includes the first openly, explicitly gay character in the MCU, and the fact that he is taken seriously as a person, without comment or surprise—and by Captain America, no less—is unequivocally good. At the same time, an unnamed throwaway character in a scene that does not advance the plot and will be easy to edit out in less tolerant markets is about as close to nothing as you can get.
  • There is a reason why the original Avengers movie worked so brilliantly: not only did the movie as a whole have a clear narrative line, but all of the major characters had their own arcs. You could watch it as an Iron Man movie, a Captain America movie, a Hulk movie, a Thor movie, a Black Widow movie, even a Hawkeye movie, and it worked. If Avengers proved that there can be room for six main characters in a movie, Infinty War and Endgame have proved that there isn’t room for several dozen. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are the only characters who really have narrative throughlines in the movie. Thor and Bruce Banner each get a couple of good scenes, but not enough for a real story. Natasha and Clint have the suggestion of a story without really getting time to develop.
  • Another thing that made Avengers so successful is that, of all the movies Tony Stark has appeared in, Avengers is the one least dominated by his emotional issues. Endgame sadly falls right into line, devoting more screen time to Tony Stark’s feelings than to anything else.

The cheers:

  • While the whole of this movie may be less than the sum of its parts, some of those parts are pretty good. The scene between Nat and Clint on Vormir sticks out in my mind. For the two poor relations of the Avengers, it was a haunting, beautifully-acted performance that showed the depths of their friendship in a way that has only been hinted at before. I could not guess which of them was going to fall, but it was clear that it would be heartbreaking either way.
  • I appreciated that this movie took the time to show us a post-snap world, even if only in a fragmentary way.
  • A lovely, tiny detail of character development: Tony and Pepper’s daughter tells Tony “I love you 3,000.” When recording a message for her, he says: “I love you 3,000.” Not 3,001 or 4,000, but the same number. For once, he doesn’t feel the need to one-up someone.
  • The final battle is a gloriously overloaded superhero rampage. I usually like cinematic fights to have a clear narrative progression, but there is something to be said for the joy of sheer chaos.
  • Many of the callbacks to previous movies were ingeniously done, but I think my favorite is Falcon announcing the arrival of the un-snapped on the battlefield with: “On your left.”
  • Even though it was far too brief and inconsequential, the assembly of the Marvel women was glorious as long as it lasted, and it made the point that the MCU has lots of powerful female characters. Now they just need movies.
  • There were also nice moments sprinkled through the film of women doing things: Nat running the reduced Avengers, Okoye managing the Wakanda branch (and perhaps the whole African division?) of same, Carol Danvers punching through a spaceship (as she is wont to do), and Nebula reconnecting with a previous version of Gamora. They are not enough, but they are good for what they are.
  • On Nebula and Gamora: in one of the few exceptions to women acting primarily as emotional supports to men, the most important relationship that Gamora develops when brought back from the past is with Nebula, not Peter Quill. The movie in fact gives Nebula, a secondary character from a second-string franchise, a surprising amount of screen time and development. At the end of the movie, Gamora and Nebula’s sisterhood is poised to take over as the most important relationship among the Guardians of the Galaxy, while Thor is in position to replace Quill as leader. If this leads to Quill being sidelined from the group or developing as a character into something more than a petulant overgrown child, I support either change.
  • Steve gets to have a life with Peggy. I’ll let other people worry about the time-travel implications—it is the ending they both deserve, and I’m happy with it.
  • Also: we know that Peggy Carter went on to be someone important in S.H.I.E.L.D. (her office door says Director), while Steve Rogers was a national hero whose face had been all over the newsreels. If he wanted to stay out of history’s way in his life with Peggy, he’d have to keep out of the public eye. Conclusion: Peggy Carter was working a high-powered job in the 1950s while Steve Rogers was a stay-at-home husband. I support this idea, and I believe Captain America would support it, too.

Image: Avengers: Endgame poster via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 8

Our favorite soft-spoken Toronto detective / inventor returns for another season of mysteries. Here’s what we thought of season 8.

  1. “On the Waterfront, Part 1” – 4.5
  2. “On the Waterfront, Part 2” – 6
  3. “Glory Days” – 2.5
  4. “Holy Matrimony, Murdoch!” – 8
  5. “Murdoch Takes Manhattan” – 7
  6. “The Murdoch Appreciation Society” – 9
  7. “What Lies Buried” – 8
  8. “High Voltage” – 4
  9. “The Keystone Constables” – 4
  10. “Murdoch and the Temple of Death” – 7
  11. “All that Glitters” – 6
  12. “The Devil Wears Whalebone” – 8
  13. “The Incurables” – 5.5
  14. “Toronto’s Girl Problem” – 4
  15. “Shipwreck” – 2
  16. “Crabtreemania” – 6
  17. “Election Day” – 7
  18. “Artful Detective” – 5.5

This season’s average rating is a 5.8, which is not the best Murdoch Mysteries has done, but is a very strong showing for a series in its eighth year and with no signs of faltering.

This season has the distinction of seeing Detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden finally tie the knot. Of course, neither their wedding nor their honeymoon can go off without a murder to brilliantly solve together, giving us a delightful pair of episodes in “Holy Matrimony, Murdoch!” and “Murdoch Takes Manhattan.” The latter episode also features a spirited B-story back in Toronto which allows Dr. Grace to take the wheel for a high(-ish)-speed car chase.

The lowest episode of this season is “Shipwreck,” at 2, in which Murdoch finds his beloved childhood priest fallen from his pedestal. There are good parts to the episode, but it is dragged down by slow pacing and uninspired acting. “Glory Days,” a 2.5 in which a legendary lawman of the US old west thinks he’s hunting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Toronto is not much better, as it wallows in the unappealing tropes of male resentment.

But these low points are more than outweighed by a number of fine episodes. The best of the season is “The Murdoch Appreciation Society,” at 9, in which Murdoch’s in-universe fans stage a fake mystery for the chance to watch him work, which becomes tangled up with a real murder plot. Also notable are “The Devil Wears Whalebone,” an 8, which features one of the series’ more inventive murder weapons, and “What Lies Buried,” also an 8, a tense and claustrophobic drama in which Murdoch seeks a killer within the police force itself. Along the way, we get the usual Murdoch hijinks with vaudeville theatre, staged wrestling matches, the early days of the women’s suffrage movement, and an Indiana Jones pastiche.

All told, it’s another fun go around with Detective Murdoch and company.

Image: Dr. Grace at the wheel, from Murdoch Mysteries via IMDb

Post edited to correct grammatical errors

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

What We Want to See in Avengers: Endgame

It’s now just over a week until Avengers: Endgame comes out. The trailers have given us a few hints about what we’ll see in the conclusion to last year’s Infinity War, but there’s still so much we don’t know about how this is all going to end. So, as we await the final countdown, here’s our thoughts on what we would like to see when the lights go down in the theatre:

 

Erik:

I was disappointed in a lot of Infinity War‘s choices, so it’s easier to say what I hope we don’t see, but in the interest of staying positive, here’s what I actually want:

  • A resolution to the Steve/Tony conflict from Captain America: Civil War. I have complained in the past about the Marvel movies being too focused on Tony Stark’s emotional life, but this one is too big a deal to leave hanging. I want to see them come together, not just because they need each other in a moment of crisis but with a proper resolution.
  • The consequences of the Great Snap. I want us to spend some time understanding the real effects on the world of half its population disappearing at once. Not just that so many of our favorite characters are gone, but that the death of half of all the people on a planet necessarily has profound effects on the culture and society of those who are left behind, effects that stretch beyond the immediate grief and trauma of loss.
  • Someone to tell Thanos that he’s a complete idiot. Thanos’s history and motivation make him an interesting villain, but we spent so much time listening to him monologue about his very, very stupid plan for the universe in Infinity War that I really want someone to let him have it and tell him just how very, very stupid his plan is.
  • At least one more Stan Lee cameo. I really hope they got one in the can for this movie.
  • Heroes with a plan. Most of what we saw the heroes do in Infinity War was scrambling, improvising, punching first and asking questions never. I want to see our heroes take the time to regroup, think about the challenge ahead, and make a proper plan.
  • Shuri. I know she seems to be among the dusted, but dang it, I want more Shuri! More Shuri in everything!

 

Eppu:

Unlike Erik, I’ll throw in some negative stuff, but I’ll front the good:

  • If the movie’s going to be 3 hours long, good pacing is a must. Marvel Cinematic Universe has generally been pretty good with that, but I found AIW less successful on that score. Here’s hoping for a great editing team!
  • An intelligent plot twist and some semblance of balance between action and planning. I get that the world is reeling after the snap, but especially since AIW failed so spectacularily in trying to counter Thanos in an intelligent manner, they’re gonna need some brain in the game. Like Doctor Strange to have done something epic, planted some seed somewhere, that along with the remainder of the Avengers’ actions will turn the tide.
  • Shuri! Anywhere, doing anything. Likewise for Okoye and Janet Van Dyne, and it had better be more than a flashback!
  • A solution for Banner’s Hulk problems would be nice but optional.
  • I already mentioned Thor using his new axe-mace. (Stormbringer, I think?) We barely saw it in AIW. Some more awesome lightning blast fights like in Ragnarok, too, please!
  • In the same vein, clever fighting tactics and using individual characters’ strengths to the fullest in cooperation with others. (Like Bucky grabbing Rocket by the scruff and spinning around, both of them firing off at Thanos’ monster troops in Wakanda in AIW. That was a thoughtful bit I liked.) That’s why we watch superhero movies: for the smarts and the smashes.
  • Fewer Thanos manologues. So. TIRESOME.
  • For Peter Quill to grow up and stop being such a whiny, self-centered, insecure git. It’s not fun to watch but painful, since he’s not given any growth to speak of. (Whatever there was at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy was essentially negated in AIW when he started measuring himself against Tony Stark. And this applies to any feature he might appear on.) Oddly, though, last I checked I couldn’t find his name on the IMDB full cast and crew for Endgame. I wonder what’s up with that?

 

That’s what we’ll be looking out for when we head to the movies next week. What about the rest of you? What are you hoping for in Endgame?

Image: Avengers: Endgame poster via IMDb

Creative Differences is an occasional feature in which we discuss a topic or question that we both find interesting. Hear from both of us about whatever’s on our minds.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries Season 7

Turn-of-the-twentieth-century Toronto detective William Murdoch is back for season 7, and so are we. Here’s what we thought of the episodes this time:

  1. “Murdoch Ahoy” – 6
  2. “Tour de Murdoch” – 7.5
  3. “The Filmed Adventures of Detective Murdoch” – 7.5
  4. “Return of Sherlock Holmes” – 8
  5. “Murdoch of the Living Dead” – 5.5
  6. “Murdochophobia” – 4
  7. “Loch Ness Murdoch” – 7
  8. “Republic of Murdoch” – 7
  9. “A Midnight Train to Kingston” – 0
  10. “Murdoch in Ragtime” – 6
  11. “Journey to the Centre of Toronto” – 10
  12. “Unfinished Business” – 7
  13. “The Murdoch Sting” – 6
  14. “Friday the 13th, 1901” – 6
  15. “The Spy Who Came Up to the Cold” – 6
  16. “Kung Fu Crabtree” – 4
  17. “Blast of Silence” – 2
  18. “The Death of Dr. Ogden” – 4

This season’s average rating is 5.8, which is pretty good. There is one standout great episode and one standout awful one, but most of the season is middling to good, which makes it good for comfort rewatching.

On the whole, this season holds up well. It offers a lot of what we have come to expect from Murdoch. There are clever takes on modern stories, like the zombie-ish “Murdoch of the Living Dead,” the turnabout con in “The Murdoch Sting,” and half of “Friday the 13th, 1901” in which Drs. Ogden and Grace get a horror movie plot (meanwhile, the boys enjoy an adorably Canadian story about curling). There are also the usual return appearances by our favorite guest characters, like Terrence Myers and Alan Clegg in “The Spy Who Came up to the Cold,” which uses the assassination of US President McKinley as fodder for an espionage thriller. And James Pendrick, the perpetual inventor of things before their time, is back to invent… Murdoch Mysteries!

This season is five episodes longer than previous seasons, coming in at eighteen episodes, which is great. We’re always in favor of more Murdoch. We also see signs of change starting to show through as this season features more people of color as incidental characters and women pushing against the boundaries of social convention.

Our lowest rating for the season goes to “A Midnight Train to Kingston,” at 0. This episode features the return of genius serial killer and Murdoch fanboy James Gillies. We have made our feelings about genius serial killer detective fanboys clear before, and we still have no interest in seeing more of them.

On the other hand, “Journey to the Centre of Toronto,” which takes up contemporary speculation about a hollow earth with a steampunkish spin, makes for a thoroughly delightful 10. This episode suffers a bit from odd pacing and a somewhat unsatisfying ending, but it presents Detective Murdoch and company with such a unique challenge, and they rise to it with such gusto, that we can forgive these weaknesses. We also love the adventurer character, Elva Gordon. It’s a shame she can’t become a regular guest like Myers and Pendrick.

Few series can stand up to the pressures of a long run without faltering, but Murdoch Mysteries continues to deliver. Long may Murdoch continue!

Have a different take on this season? Let us know!

Image: Detective Murdoch explaining an earth-burrowing mole machine, from Murdoch Mysteries via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Some Random Thoughts on Captain Marvel

In no particular order. Spoiler warnings in effect.

Erik’s random thoughts:

  • My overall impression of this movie is that it was good, but not great. And that’s fine. For Marvel’s first woman-led movie, the pressure is on to excel, and we would have loved it if this movie had measured up to some of the great Marvel triumphs like Avengers and Black Panther, but it’s also perfectly okay for this movie to just be perfectly okay. In a franchise where Tony Stark gets six or seven movies to learn not to be a total raging jerk all the time, there’s plenty of room for women to lead good, great, and even not-so-great movies.
  • As someone who doesn’t know the comic character, I was rather lost for the first hour or so until Carol Danvers’s history finally got explained. Some of the narrative choices made in the first half of the movie even seemed to deliberately push Carol’s confusion about her identity onto the audience. I expect to enjoy the movie more on a second or third viewing when I can focus on the characters and the action rather than trying to sort out who is who, where we are in the timeline, and which memories are reliable.
  • There are also some individual plot elements that would have benefited from taking a little more time to introduce and develop, like the background of the Pegasus project, Mar-Vel’s plans, “Vers’s” relationship with Yon-Rog, and the power-inhibiting neck disk. As it is, there are some moments in the film that don’t have the emotional weight they should because we lack an adequate set-up.
  • They’ve really nailed the de-aging technology. In the brief scenes they’ve done in previous movies it’s been very good, but still looked a little fake. Even Coulson in this movie looked just a bit digital, but young Nick Fury was absolutely convincing.
  • I loved the Carol Danvers / Nick Fury buddy cop road movie parts of this film. The two actors played beautifully off one another, and I could easily have had a full movie of Danvers’s and Fury’s road trip adventures.
  • And while we’re on the subject of Nick Fury, notice that he doesn’t make any fuss about helping with the washing up. That’s class.
  • Brie Larson is perfectly cast as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel. She plays the character as tough, resourceful, and snarky without being overbearing, but also wounded and sometimes unsure of herself without undermining her own strength. By the end of the movie, we can totally believe that she is not only a super-powered hero who can blow up an invading spaceship by punching right through it, but also the kind of person whose response to an alien invasion would be to blow up their ship by punching right through it.
  • Monica is great, full of life and spirit in a believable way, and the relationship she has both with her mother Maria and her auntie Carol is beautiful to watch. It’s nice to see a movie quietly acknowledge that women can be loving mothers and aunties while also flying fighter jets, blowing up alien spaceships, and generally kicking ass. There is no reason why these things cannot be compatible.
  • Well, now we know how Fury lost his eye, and really, could it have happened in any better way?

 

Eppu’s random thoughts:

  • Going in, I had no idea what powers Captain Marvel has in the comics nor how she got them; everything I knew came from the trailers, but of course they don’t really explain anything. I confess I was curious how the heck was she able to fire photon blasts from her hands and fly. Aha—the Tesseract; a-okay.
  • The movie not only easily passed the Bechdel test, it chomped it up for breakfast. LOVED THAT. Just like in Black Panther, all the women were competent, complex, and clearly their own personas instead of cardboard cutouts or boob bimbos reciting lines.
  • Great acting all round, too. Brie Larson, Lashana Lynch, and Akira Akbar’s power trio was awesome! You could almost feel the history between the three. (And I really hope we get to see an older Monica Rambeau in MCU some day.) Annette Bening was wonderful despite her relatively short appearances, and Ben Mendelsohn was very impressive even through the latex mask. Jude Law I’ve never cared for, but he didn’t bother me in this.
  • While the pacing was ok, the plot felt overly complicated—and to be explicit, I’m not convinced it’s necessarily a bad thing. Then again, BP really has raised the stakes for MCU movies for me; stories are facing a steep uphill battle to get the gold star.
  • The movie sure had a lot on its plate. First it needed to introduce this new MCU character, give us some idea of who the Kree are, and outline the Skrull threat. Then we get glimpses into Danver’s previous life on Earth, the identities of Dr. Lawson / Mar-Vell plus Maria and Monica Rambeau, and the eventual regaining of Danver’s memories and relationship with the Rambeaus (but whether it was all memories or just most I’m still unsure about). Add to that not only the super-duper-short intro to S.H.I.E.L.D. and a more extensive one to Nick Fury, but also bringing Fury and Danvers together to chase leads, reversing the Skrull threat, adding the threat to Earth by Kree, the secret underneath the cute surface of Goose, Danvers discovering the extent of her abilities, and, finally, Danvers / Captain Marvel winning the day. Still, Captain Marvel didn’t feel quite as jam-packed as Avengers: Infinity War did.
  • Speaking of AIW, CM was clearly geared to directly feed into the upcoming Avengers: Endgame; the focus was on explaining how come this Captain Marvel character is the one Fury calls when shit really, truly hits the fan. Consequently, there wasn’t much room for showing how Carol Danvers came to be who she is, especially compared to the male heroes (say, Steve Rogers). It was interesting, though, to compare this origin story with that of the first few MCU origin stories / introductions (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America). I’m not the only one to compare Steve Rogers’s and Carol Danvers’s tenacity and their steadfastness in working towards their goals. Abigail Nussbaum put it best: “When she finally embraces what she is, she becomes unstoppable.” (As a side note, I thought the Carol Danvers character is quite good an example of the Finnish concept sisu. Steve Rogers is also in the right direction, but he didn’t have to time and again break through the glass ceiling women face.)
  • I loved how different a Fury we see, and can easily believe how this version could turn into the older one we were first introduced to—Samuel L. Jackson has great acting chops for sure. He didn’t just feel younger and less hardened than Director Fury, for the lack of a better word he felt lighter (more optimistic? more trusting? more naive? all of the above???).
  • Which reminds me: I almost cried out loud out of frustration towards the beginning when Fury and Coulson pursue Vers / the train in LA and they drove the wrong direction. That’s been done a gazillion times in action movies and I’ve had my fill of it. Fortunately it lasted only a few seconds. Phew.
  • Goose the cat being a Flerken able to swallow the Tesseract was a really interesting choice. Where did he end up living afterwards? And how long do they live to begin with?
  • Coulsooooon! Nice to see a glimpse of the young Coulson, too. (I’ve seen the first two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with Coulson of course, but I just don’t find the series as satisfying as the movies.)
  • Ditto on Fury and dishes.
  • The canyon dogfight between Minn-Erva and Maria Rambeau was great. I was starting to be worried that Rambeau wasn’t going to be given any moments to shine in her own right (apart from being shown a great best friend and mother; i.e., only in relation to others). There were just two soldiers who happened to be women doing their jobs. Awesome.
  • Speaking of, Maria Rambeau got some of the best lines: “You call me ‘young lady’ again, I’ll shove my foot up somewhere it’s not supposed to be.”
  • Minor nitpicks include the crest on Vers’s helmet (looks stupid to me) and the unrealistically low amount of catcalling and/or harassment she gets at the train station looking for the Skrull runaway while wearing the Kree armor—then again, if LA residents are as focused on their own thing as NYC commuters are, it’s not that unrealistic after all. (Haven’t been to LA myself, so I don’t know.)
  • Best moments: “I’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind my back!” and “I have nothing to prove to you.” *pow!*
  • I’ll end with a note from a Forbes article by Scott Mendelson listing some of the film’s earnings: “Because the financial metrics, both in North America and overseas, clearly show that the future of the MCU is essentially everything except more white guys named Chris.” *harf!* 😀 You got that right.

 

Image: Brie Larson as Carol Danvers from Captain Marvel via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Captain Marvel Viewing

March 08 is International Women’s Day. Very appropriately, we are celebrating by going to see Captain Marvel!

IMDB Captain Marvel Eyes Horizontal

I’m hoping it’ll be as awesome as the trailers look!

To the people complaining that this version of Marvel is too political and therefore massively off-putting, I have only one thing to say.

(Long post warning.)

Read the whole post.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 6

It’s another season of Murdoch for us to rewatch and rate. This one flies high at the beginning, then crashes and burns at the end. Here’s our take:

  1. “Murdoch Air” – 10
  2. “Winston’s Lost Night” – 6.5
  3. “Murdoch on the Corner” – 8
  4. “A Study in Sherlock” – 7
  5. “Murdoch au Naturel” – 7.5
  6. “Murdoch and the Cloud of Doom” – 6.5
  7. “The Ghost of Queen’s Park” – 6
  8. “Murdoch in Ladies’ Wear” – 2.5
  9. “Victoria Cross” – 5.5
  10. “Twisted Sisters” – 3.5
  11. “Lovers in a Murderous Time” – 3
  12. “Crime and Punishment” – 0
  13. “The Murdoch Trap” – 0

This is a remarkable season of Murdoch Mysteries, ranging from the very best the show has to offer to the very worst. The average for this season is only 5.1, which is the lowest yet for a season of Murdoch, but the average is deceptive since this season is half good-to-brilliant and half disappointing-at-best with not a lot falling in the middle range. It’s an odd roller coaster of a season, and, like all roller coasters, it eventually ends at the bottom.

That bottom is pretty darned low. “Crime and Punishment” and “The Murdoch Trap,” both rating a solid 0, make up a two-parter in which two of our least favorite things get combined: overly clever serial killers who get away with everything and artificial barriers thrown up by writers to squeeze more drama out of romantic angst. Darcy Garland, the multi-season speed bump to the blossoming relationship between Detective Murdoch and Doctor Ogden, suffers a character assassination this season as he goes from being reasonable and charming to being obstreperous and capricious, all for the writers’ increasingly desperate ploys to keep Murdoch and Ogden apart as long as possible. Rather than offer us something truly new and original on tv—reasonable adults dealing with complicated emotions with compassion, self-awareness, and generosity—the writers fall back on one of the most worn-out tropes of mystery fiction: have the offending interloper murdered by a genius serial killer who frames the detective. These are two episodes we will never be watching again.

But what a joy of an episode we get to start the season off with! “Murdoch Air” earns its full 10 rating with a thrilling opening, some great character moments, the return of the beloved James Pendrick, a dash of international intrigue courtesy of Myers and Clegg, and an exhilarating ending that has Murdoch soaring over Niagara Falls years before the Wright brothers got airborne. “Murdoch Air” has a little bit of everything that makes Murdoch so delightful.

There are a lot of other good episodes in the first half of the season, too, bringing us young Winston Churchill boozing around Toronto, a Sherlock Holmes impersonator with a mystery of his own to solve, an introduction to the turn-of-the-century nudist movement, and a poison-gas terrorist. On the other hand, you can skip the second half of the season and not miss much.

How did you like this season of Murdoch? Was the final two-parter right up your alley? Not thrilled by the airborne first episode? Let us know!

Image: Constable Crabtree trying pizza, from Murdoch Mysteries via IMDb.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Some Random Thoughts on Aquaman

We were late to see Aquaman, but here, finally, are some random thoughts in no particular order.

Spoiler warning very much in effect!

IMDb Aquaman Comic-Con Poster

  • First of all: visually, it was a feast! In the theater while waiting for the movie to start, Erik mentioned he’d read somewhere someone say that Aquaman will change the way movies are expected to look for this generation the same way (I assume the original) Star Wars did for previous generations. I’d fully believe it: so many different effects and environments, all polished off to a regal shine (if you’ll pardon me for being corny for a bit). I’d also say this: while the SW prequels attempted to shower the audience with rich sets and visuals, they ultimately just didn’t reach the level of breathtaking; Aquaman (and Moana, Rogue One, and SW:XIII) actually succeeded.
  • The character Tom Curry (played by Temuera Morrison), the lighthouse keeper, looked Polynesian and sounded like a Kiwi. For a character who’s supposed to be a Mainer that was a bit of a whiplash. Then again, the world is more international these days than ever before.
  • Speaking of Maine and lighthouses, even I could tell there were too few trees in the “Maine” scenes. It looks like they were filmed in Newfoundland, so that would explain it. Other than that, the supposedly northern locations looked at least plausible—the rocky coast looks just right, in fact—so a plus for that. (I’m the kind of northener who happens to care whether my home is misrepresented or not.)
  • I’ve never read the comics, so I have no idea which plot elements came from where; I can’t comment from that point of view. (Literally, what I knew is Raj from The Big Bang Theory saying “Aquaman sucks!”) With that caveat, at first I was merely amused by the mixing of the Atlantean and Arthurian legends, but they kinda made it work. The antagonist’s father-son-tragedy-as-backstory was unfortunately tiresome, but at least it was given to black people, plus Yahya Abdul-Mateen II really rocked as Manta. (I’m so sick of seeing middle-aged white men wrangling with son guilt. Hey Leverage—I’m talking about you especially!)
  • The Tom-Atlanna romance was seemingly set up exatly like the dime-a-dozen action movies that have come before: man meets woman, she blows his mind with her awesomeness, they fall in love only to have him lose her In Order to Have Feelings(TM). Thankfully, Aquaman not only didn’t follow the trope through, it subverted parts of it: instead of dying, Queen Atlanna thoroughly wiped the deck with the team sent to bring her back to Atlantis (while he protected their child, Arthur, having correctly determined that her enhanced abilities would allow the family to survive—I just LOVE smart, self-confident, genuine, non-egotistical men). After the attack, Atlanna decided she’d better return voluntarily to protect Tom and Arthur, and subsequently was reported to have been sacrificed to a Verifiable Monster of the Deep, again making it look like the plot fridged her to give Tom the Official Permission to Wallow, but no—towards the end, we find out she not only survived, but carved a haven for herself and joined Princess Mera and Arthur in their quest for the super trident.
  • In the same vein, the Mera-Arthur romance was foreseeable and dull. At least the movie gave her the initiative unlike so many prior Hollywood stories.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t mind Nicole Kidman as Atlanna.
  • Hairwise, surprisingly many characters kept their long hair loose even underwater. I would’ve thought it would be in the way too much, at least for the guards and other fighters. Mera’s hair was too red for my taste (The Little Mermaid, anyone?), but Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe) had quite a cute man bun/thing.
  • Overall, I felt that characters didn’t fare that well, unfortunately. Apart from Atlanna and Mera, I can’t remember any other women having more than a line, if that, except for the Fisherman Princess (and that’s really pushing it, too). Why is is that the only women being shown as active, rounded-out people instead of plot-relevant placeholders* are royalty? Not to forget the many mer-men who barely got defined as individuals. The creators clearly made a choice to focus on the story and visuals instead of characters. I’d rather see great characters AND great story, preferably with knock-out visuals, too; that’s why I love Black Panther so much.
  • I found the five underwater kingdoms that separated from the original Atlantean culture quite cliched, flat, and underdeveloped. Looks like developing the visuals took precedence indeed.
  • And wow—the Verifiable Monster of the Deep was monstrous!
  • And whatever else you might say, Aquaman really was epic. That said, some of the power poses approached ridiculous, but I suppose that happens easily when adapting superhero comics.
  • The final fight between Manta plus his goons and Mera plus Aquaman happened in a small seaside town in the Mediterranean, and it was inventive and not too predictable. However, we last see Manta plunging into the water from a cliff, bouncing off the rocks in the process. Now, one of my pet peeves is when a protagonist survives repeated and super violent hits, shakes, car crashes, what have you, because no matter how well a human body may be armored, your brain can still whiplash inside your skull, and that, as I understand, is really the life-threatening aspect of being hit too hard on the head. I thought that was it for Manta after his plunge and felt pleased Aquaman avoided yet another trope, but no—in a stinger, we see him drag himself to the shore. Argh!

Did you see Aquaman? What did you think?

Image: Aquaman Comic-Con poster via IMDb.

*) The delightful term plot-relevant placeholder is from a review by Liz Bourke—thank you!

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.